Thursday, 29 April 2010

Young Farmers

Yesterday evening we had a visit from a local Young Farmers Club.   About 20 turned up and stayed for nearly and hour and a half.   They seemed very interested in finding out about alpacas although they did not ask any of the technical questions which Nick warned me of.    They did ask for the nearest pub when they were leaving and I directed them to the Tytherleigh Arms over the road.    It might have been a bit of a shock for them, but no doubt I will hear about it from Martin, the landlord, next time we go over there for a meal.

I divided the alpacas into groups starting with the remains of our original females, then the younger females we have bred on farm and finally the 20-09 weanlings, who were, of course the most popular especially with the girls.  We talked about fleece and the quality and also what makes a good alpaca.  They were all very pleasant young people and I hope that they enjoyed their evening.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

What Recall?

I called Dolly this evening as I needed to go into the winter paddocks to check on the Chardstock 6.   At first she remained lying down in the chickens' field so I called again.   I then walked towards her wondering why she was not taking any notice of me.   At this she ran off with something in her mouth.  I went indoors and found some treats and came out to find she had disappeared.  I eventually found her under one of the customer pic nic tables with a dead mouse.  Luckily I only had to look as though I had a tit bit and she dropped the mouse, which I quickly threw into the rubbish bin, and took the treat.  Looks like it is back to the drawing board when a dead mouse is more interesting than me!!

To be fair she is absolutely brilliant most of the time, but we definitely need to do some work in the dead mouse department.   It was just lucky that we were in the farmyard and nowhere dangerous.

Charlie had his operation today and is nodding sadly around with his buster collar on.  He ate a hearty supper so I have high hopes that he will soon get over himself.

Dolly is busy wrecking th office at the moment - I think she would call it investigating.

Mike finished installing the automatic pop holes on the chicken sheds today.    They have drop down doors which are activated by a sensor.  They open at daybreak and shut automatically when it gets dark.  They look rather like guillotines so I am hoping we don't get up in the morning to find a pile of headless chickens.

The idea behind it is that when we are away or at a dog show the chickens will be safely shut in at night without having to make arrangements for the neighbours or friends and family to come in to do it.  Watch this space for a report on the success or failure of the gadget.

Nick and I vaccinated the goats today as it is getting towards their birthing time.   I scanned the one who did not appear pregnant at the last scan and she is now also  pregnant so we could (fingers crossed) have a full complement giving birth in May.

Two or three of the alpacas have had mite problems which we thought we had nearly cured but today we were disappointed to find that they seem to have come back.    We were aware that some of the improvement was due to the cold weather of winter but we were convinced that this time we had pretty much conquered the problem.   They have been dosed up again and we are hoping we have caught it early enough so that it does not develop further as the spring and summer progess.

I took dung samples from every paddock this morning and we are awaiting the vet's report on parasite levels.    Unless we have a specific reason to administer wormer, we only do so if the worm egg count is shown to be a cause for concern.  I also took samples of the goats'.

We also trimmed the boys' toe nails.   They were not done when we did the girls and boy did it show.   They were very long indeed.  Ben, the wether who really plays up when having his toes nails trimmed was a model citizen today.  No he has not learnt to be calm - we put him on a halter and covered his eyes with a towel.  This worked really well and he really seemed quite relaxed  whilst I did his nails and administered the Blue Tongue vaccine.   When we released him he just stood still for a moment or two and then strolled away.   Such a difference from the usual stressful scene we have whenever Ben has to undergo husbandry of any kind.

No births yet.  I am beginning to think that Cleo who should have birthed about ten days ago must be due much later.   Perhaps I put the wrong month on the computer system we use or maybe she was remated and I did not enter a record of it.   The good news is that we scanned her and there is definitely something there.  We just dont know when it is going to emerge!!

Mike has hurt his leg and has been limping around the farm since yesterday.  We are supposed to be going training tomorrow and off to a dog show at the weekend but it does not look very hopeful for him.

We have a group of Young Farmers coming tomorrow night.  Should be interesting as farmers in general are a little bewildered by the concept of alpaca farming.  I hope they dont ask too many technical questions.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Back to Reality

I have just spent the last four days on a John Rogerson course organised by my friend Pauline at Andover.  John is a renowned dog trainer's trainer.   The weather was lovely and I took Dolly, the puppy, and Charlie.  Charlie and Jake have been having issues so it was useful to pick up John's behavioural advice as well as using him as my subject for the Ultimate Recall which was the name of the course.  It was also really good to have Dolly to myself without the influence of her Mum, Romie.   She was very confident and very good.

Since getting home Charlie has been much better behaved but he is still being castrated tomorrow in the hope that with less testosterone his relationship with Jake will improve.   Maybe he knows, because today he has been perfect and has not put a foot wrong.

The farm looks very well populated again because all the alpacas are in the home paddocks.   They are colour coordinated with the hens - shades ranging from  black through brown to white.

Life is a lot easier now that they are not eating as much hay.  We just have to let the chickens out and feed the goats in the morning instead of having to visit every paddock and top up hay.

We took a total of £285 at the coffee morning in aid of Devon Air Ambulance.

The shop is very quiet at the moment.   The lull between Easter and Summer hols I expect.


Monday, 19 April 2010

Long time no see

Well I cannot believe it was the 20th March when I last blogged on.

All the puppies have gone to their new homes and they seem to be making a good impression.   Dolly is already a fully fledged farm dog and comes round to feed the goats (and steal food from their trough) as well as the chickens.   She is not afraid of either but has been more reticent about the alpacas.   This morning, however, she was brave enough to stay with us whilst we cleaned the paddocks.   She tried to jump into the galvanised drinking trough but could not quite make it.   She has learned the delights of eating alpaca poo as a dietry supplement.

The hens have all settled in very well.   We now have the original 6 Black Rock,  7 Silver Link, 1 Rhode Island Red and 9 rescued hens and of course the cockrell.  We are picking up between 15 and 20 eggs a day and Mike is going to make a roadside sign so that we can get more people buying them.

We have sold quite a few alpacas lately and I am going to have to revamp our sales list to make some more money whilst retaining enough stock to keep the herd viable.  I took some weanlings and Pedro to the SWAG Spring show at the weekend and Pedro won his class with his daughter Lucetta coming second in hers.    Little Javier, a very attractive little fawn boy was thrown out because the judge could only find one testicle (on the alpaca) even though I had asked another experienced breeder to check for me before we went into the ring.  He confirmed that the testicles were present although they had not dropped.   Still you cannot argue with the judge, and to be fair he did have a second rummage when I mentioned that someone else had managed to locate the little devils.

We have scanned the goats and four of the five does are pregnant with some looking as though they might have twins.  We will be vaccinating them tomorrow to ensure that they have some immunity to pass on to their kids.  Mike and Nick will have to partition the goat house and the paddock to keep the buck away from the females and kids as apparently they can harm them.  Not sure if it is deliberate or just because the kids are small and the buck is big.

At last spring has arrived and the grass is starting to grow.   We have been struggling to get enough hay to go round for the last few weeks.   We are planning to buy in a much larger quantity this year and store it outside
under tarpaulin.     My friend's husband works in Chard Dairy and they have a lot of surplus pallets which we can have to make a base to stack in on.

We are going to move the herd around tomorrow to pull out some of the females who will be giving birth in the next week or two.   They will stay in a paddock near the barn so we can keep an eye on them.

Charlie, our latest dog has started to fight with Jake.  I think he is just getting too big for his boots as he has matured.   He will be paying the price with his manhood next Tuesday and in the meantime we are trying to spend some time keeping everything calm in the pack.   The last thing I want is for a dog to be hurt or for Dolly to learn bad behaviour.

Mike is suffering from a really bad back at the moment.  I have given him a couple of massages but I think he needs to go to the chiropractor and maybe get a professional massage too.  

All the hedges round the farm have now been layed and this year Mike and Nick will be concentrating on other jobs such as drainage and limiting the weed population in the winter paddocks as well as adding fertiliser.

Following a talk by Jo Scamell, a specialist in forage and soil nutrition and management arranged by our Vet practice we are going to have our soil tested and try to rectify any imbalances.    We will probably use green waste and natural minerals. This might seem strange when we have loads of alpaca manure daily but before being used on the paddocks it would have to be composted for two years to ensure that it is free of parasites etc:    This is not so important when it is just being used in small quantities to fertilise a garden but vital if being used to fertilise the whole farm.   

On the 10th April we held a coffee morning in support of Devon Air Ambulance.   Our friend and neighbour Pam suggested it as she had done several before.  She thought it might work to have it on the farm.

We are still waiting for the final tally on money because they have not collected the tins yet, but we made  over £200 on the gate, the raffle and the cake stall.  We also had a dog agility demonstration by Honiton Club and Friends and Members of Axe Vale club as well as Pam's nephew, Lawrence.  Pam made nearly all the cakes and the raffle prizes were donated by us and many well wishers.

Complete Meats our local butcher donated a lovely hamper and Moores Biscuits donated the biccies for the coffee.   We also had a jam and chutney tasting of locally made  varieties which we sell in the shop.

It was a beautiful hot day and most people seemed to stay for the duration.  Although it was not our intention particularly, we felt that it was a very good PR exercise.  We sold out of eggs and have been offered some extra grazing in the village which could be very useful.

I am away for four days from Wednesday as I am going to stay with Pauline in Andover and attend a John Rogerson course called the Ultimate Recall.  It will be interesting to find out if he has any brilliant new ideas to teach.

I will report when I get back.  I am leaving Mike with four females who could give birth any time over the next couple of weeks.  His favourite - NOT!